As the peak summer growing season comes to an end, I took a trip to my parent’s place to have a look at their urban garden in full bloom. My parents have grown ripe tomatoes, feathery zucchini flowers, sweet string beans, basil, parsley, figs (yes, in New Jersey!), blazingly hot cayenne peppers, mint, squash, and woodsy rosemary for as long as I can remember. Most of the vegetables are started from heirloom seeds and mom and dad spend a considerable amount of time watering, weeding, cutting, tilling, etc. the garden. Generally, my parents don’t take on a project unless they can do it extremely well and their home garden is no exception.
The aforementioned garden inspired me to start my own small garden when we first purchased our home several years, but I quickly encountered two big problems: 1. lack of sun and 2. lack of time. I couldn’t do much about the lack of sun in our backyard given several large trees (I like the shade) but I could motivate myself to work harder on the garden. So, I tried to weed and nurture our small suburban garden, but I just didn’t have the passion and feel needed to make it flourish. So, now several years later we’re left with a few patio planters (in terra cotta) filled with lush basil and parsley (hey, I can make plenty of pesto).
I bring up my own garden malfunction story to prove a point. Namely, even with a good background and the know-how to garden there were still a few key elements missing that prevented me from growing high quality vegetables and herbs. That is to say, there are basic intangibles that allow high achievers to win the US Open or climb the corporate to CEO, for example, or even complete a large home improvement project or start and maintain a thriving garden that I didn’t possess when I started my garden.
Here are four intangible personality traits needed for general success in life (not necessarily to grow a great garden!):
1. Passion. You know what I’m talking about here; passion is the fuel that drives any big dream or desire to get stuff done. Passion pushes people to work countless hours on a crazy garage-bred idea or quite their job and move half way around the world to travel and explore the world.
2. Shortsightedness. Any time someone achieves something extraordinary something else in their life, inevitably, takes a back seat. If you’re practicing to win the US Open, then it’s going to be tough to maintain a romantic relationship, travel for pleasure, or read a few great novels (do you think Roger Federer is a well rounded person?). Anything worth achieving requires a ton of time and certain things will take a back seat in life when time is at a premium.
3. Stubbornness. My parents would never allow their garden to die or produce mediocre results. In many ways, my parent’s greatest strength is their perseverance and willingness to push through life (even if the path is uphill and windy). This is a typical recent immigrant characteristic and tough to teach.
4. Feel. You can instruct someone to swing a tennis racquet, but you’ll quickly get a sense if that person has a “feel” for the racquet and how to, generally, hit a tennis ball. You’ll notice how their body moves and bends to greet the tennis ball and the explosion of arm and back muscles to propel the ball forward. You’ll also notice how the person reacts after they hit the ball; namely, how they land ready to swing again and quickly sprint left or right to chase down the next spinning tennis ball. This, in a crudely described manner, is having feel. Apply the description to business, cooking, parenting, sport, etc., if you don’t have it you’ll probably never be able to excel, at the highest level, at a particular task or goal.